Saturday, December 12, 2009

The Trespass Offering

Up until about a week ago I thought sins and trespasses were the same thing. I still don’t know the difference between them, just that there must be one. If you know the answer to this question please tell me.

In this, my last post on the sacrifices, (sigh of relief), I’m going to focus on several exciting observations from the chapters in Leviticus and Numbers that deal with trespass offerings.

Up until now the sacrificial offerings have shown us our guilt in a very general sense. We are all sinners, so we’re all guilty of breaking any one of God’s laws in some way. Now the sins, or trespasses whichever the case may be, start to get specific. Some of the sins listed include bearing false witness or lying under a variety of different situations, touching any unclean thing even if unaware of it, sins of the mouth such as speaking without thinking and unconsciously entering into oaths that may not be kept, sinning unintentionally regarding the holy things of the Lord, and extorting from a neighbor, and even taking something as your own that was lost by a neighbor. (What? Finder’s/keeper’s isn’t lawful?) Again, the unintentional nature of these sins does not excuse the offender, he is still guilty. I wondered why this particular list of sins is given. It seems to me that it may be because they are sins that don’t seem like such serious sins. I mean everyone knows how bad murder and adultery are, right? But a little lie? Accidentally entering into an oath that you may or may not be able to keep? Picking up a tool found by the side of the road and, not seeing anyone to claim it, taking it? These are things that we justify in our everyday life. Maybe that’s why this list is given. This cautions us to be on the look-out for ways we have sinned against the Lord. I’m reminded of David’s prayer to God in Psalm 139. “Search me, O God, and know my heart; try me, and know my anxieties; and see if there is any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” We must first acknowledge our sins before God can forgive us of them.

Herein lies my next observation, these chapters mention forgiveness more than all the previous ones dealing with sacrificial offerings. I counted 8X that some variation of the phrase, “so the priest shall make atonement for him concerning his sin, and it shall be forgiven him” is repeated in Leviticus chapters 4-6 dealing with the sin and trespass offerings. I may have missed one, but I didn’t see forgiveness even mentioned in chapters 1-3 at all and not in chapter 4 on the sin offering until verse 26. There seems to be a shift in emphasis away from our guilt, although our guilt is still mentioned, to atonement and forgiveness. Leviticus 5:5 also reminds us that confession must accompany the sacrifice in order for atonement to be made. “And it shall be, when he is guilty in any of these matters, that he shall confess that he has sinned in that thing; and he shall bring his trespass offering to the Lord for his sin which he has committed.”

There is also a precious provision for the poor in verses 7-13 that demonstrate that forgiveness is available for all who confess and repent. Those who couldn’t afford a lamb, could bring turtledoves or pigeons, those that couldn’t even afford two birds could bring 1/10 of an ephah of fine flour. What a wonderful reminder that God is an impartial and gracious God. We’re all guilty before Him and forgiveness is open to all who have a penitent heart.

And finally there is the concept of restitution brought up in the trespass offerings. It’s not enough to just acknowledge our guilt, where possible restitution should be made. Now, restitution is not possible in every case, but in cases of property or money, it is. And it’s interesting that the amount of restitution is the amount of that taken or damage done, plus 1/5. We’ve come a long way from this way of thinking, haven’t we? Instead, now we pay to house and feed and medically insure and guard the very ones that owe us restitution!

I want to end on this thought of restitution. Isn’t God gracious that when we confess our sins He is faithful and just to forgive us (1 John 1:9)? Of course, there is no way we could make restitution to the Lord for our sins. Even our righteous acts are like filthy rags before Him (Isaiah 64:6). So, how does this work? Christ is the propitiation for our sins, meaning He satisfies God’s righteous requirement for justice. He makes restitution to God for our sins. “In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.” (1 John 4:1) Again, we end with a great reason to celebrate His coming this Advent season! Not only has He taken away our guilt, but He has also made restitution for our sins. What a magnificent Savior we have!

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I'm an on-the-run mom to 6 kids who studied and taught exercise science in a previous life. I love all things running, nutrition, and health-related. I usually run at zero dark thirty in the morning and am often quite hungry before, during, and after my run, but I live a rich, full, blessed life with my children, family, and friends. My faith in God is my anchor, and looking to Him and His promises allows me to live fully even when life circumstances are difficult. While running gives me an appetite, my desire is to hunger and thirst for righteousness more than for physical food.